I’m going to preface this by saying that I am writing this piece to ask questions that I have no answers to. I am not claiming to know whether or not affirmative action is good or bad but I do think it’s a question worth asking. The purpose of affirmative action is to try and level the playing field and give people an opportunity to go to college that might not have normally had that opportunity.

One thing we need to make clear from the start is that the playing field in this country will never be level and it has nothing to do with race. It has to with the haves and the have nots. The only thing that a college degree guarantees these days is that the schools, banks and investors are going to be making a lot of money off of students who will be graduating buried under a mountain of debt. It’s basically the 21st century version of indentured servitude. There’s a reason we are losing young people to Europe for top quality subsidized education.

The group that seems to be feeling the most pressure from affirmative actions are asians. Asians tend to perform significantly better on standardized tests than any other racial group and many of them seem to feel as if they are being punished for it. An article posted in the Economist last year shed some light on the situation.

MICHAEL WANG, a young Californian, came second in his class of 1,002 students; his ACT score was 36, the maximum possible; he sang at Barack Obama’s inauguration; he got third place in a national piano contest; he was in the top 150 of a national maths competition; he was in several national debating-competition finals. But when it came to his university application he faced a serious disappointment for the first time in his glittering career. He was rejected by six of the seven Ivy League colleges to which he applied.

“I saw people less qualified than me get better offers,” says Mr Wang. “At first I was just angry. Then I decided to turn that anger to productive use.” He wrote to the universities concerned. “I asked: what more could I have done to get into your college? Was it based on race, or what was it based on?” He got vague responses—or none. So he complained to the Department of Education. Nothing came of it. “The department said they needed a smoking gun.”

The question we need to ask ourselves is if something is broken in the process, then how do we fix it? In the meantime are we doing ourselves, our country and disservice by allowing race to be PART of the determining factor on whether or not a student and their test scores are good enough to be admitted into the school of their choice?

We do have some pretty insightful statistics on states that have banned affirmative action and what consequences it had. Currently eight states have banned affirmative action and as of 2014 the Supreme Court upheld those decisions and agreed that states could indeed ban affirmative action. So what were the results of those bans? For the most part, not that good. A few schools fared well after the ban but many schools saw a dramatic decrease in the number of minority enrolled students after the ban.

How Minorities Have Fared in States With Affirmative Action Bans   Interactive Graphic   NYTimes.com

A few schools, like The University of Florida, have done well since banning affirmative action and have actually shown growth in these two categories:

How Minorities Have Fared in States With Affirmative Action Bans   Interactive Graphic   NYTimes.com2

One thing I am sure of is that the people in power are more than happy to keep poor people of this country divided using whatever issues they can. It’s mind boggling to see how much money is funnelled upwards to the wealthiest people in the country who get away scot-free while poor whites, blacks, latinos and asians stand around pointing the finger at each other about who’s “taking” what from who.

People are screaming bloody murder when someone steals a loaf of bread to feed their family but shrugs it off when rich and powerful bankers actually colluded and caused millions of people to lose their homes and their life savings. Someone stealing food to feed their family will find themselves in jail. Someone stealing billions of dollars and then gambling with it will find themselves bailed out by the taxes of the same people just trying to put food on their family’s table.

I guess the purpose of this post is to ask someone to explain to me how affirmative action is helping the United States. Or how it’s hurting it. I honestly can’t wrap my head around what it’s supposed to be doing. If it’s as simple as giving minorities chances that they otherwise might not have had then shouldn’t we be addressing why they wouldn’t have had those chances in the first place?

Please trust me when I say that I am going into this completely open minded. I’m not saying it’s good or bad, I’m just saying I think it’s something that we can discuss more and learn from each other what their experience has been.

Posted by James Poling

A socialist, tinkerer, thinker, question asker and all around curiosity seeker. If you'd like to reach me you can use the contact link above or email me at jamespoling [at] gmail [dot] com.

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